Yesterday I attended an iMedia training day, mostly aimed at those planning to deliver the course form next year. As we’re halfway through the year with our first cohort we thought it might be sensible to get some training and so we spent some time with the Chief Moderator, Kevin Wells, as well as Alison Pearce, the head honcho.
It was my first formal training course for a specific qualification but I got the impression it was somewhat unusual. We got to ask direct questions to the two most important people, and were given direct responses. It seems that they have gone out of their way to make the course easy to manage without being a pain to assess or adminsiter (administrate?).
Most importantly, it seems that we’re delivering the course more or less right, but I thought some of you might appreciate a brief rundown of the topics covered. As such I’m going to take the unprecendented step of using the ‘more’ tag. If the world as we know ceases to exist, I most humbly apologise.
Now,over the course of the day I made lots of notes on LOTS of topics and in lots of places – so this will be as much about me getting the ideas right in my head as it is about sharing them with you. So forgive me if I start to ramble (the odds of which are fairly significant I’m afraid).
What I don’t want to do is simply describe the course – you can get plenty of info from the iMedia mini-site. This is just for the detail I got from human beings.
Play. Plan. Do. Review. That’s the unofficial tag-line for the course, apparently.
- Sit the kids down and let them experiment. Teach them how to do whatever it is they need to know how to do. This ought to be 80% or so of the total unit time of 30 hours, although that’s by no means a requirement.
- Once they pupils know how to do things they need to plan their own project, given a project brief. This can be one of the sample projects provided by the board or one you made up. Bullet-point lists of tasks, storyboards, sketches – whatever works. But planning is KEY. The idea is that we simulate a real-word project, so no tedious GCSE-esque ‘Identify’ to trawl through but a sensible plan.
- Then the pupils put their new-found skills to use, independently.
- Then they review their work and see what they would do differently next time. That means that the solution doesn’t have to be perfect.
Some of the key points that came out for me (in no particular order):
- While a test plan is needed for some units (e.g. web authoring), pupils don’t need to ‘fail’ bits of testing in order to show they can fix errors. In practice, pupils do this as they build the product anyway (as do most non-pupils) and this aspect of GCSE ICT always bugged me.
- You don’t need to produce a software manual. GCSE ICT can become “How to use Excel” if you’re not careful. Here we just need a couple of screenshots with a narrative, or annotations, or an interview (audio or video) to explain what was done, how and why.
That why is key. Why did the student add that filter? Why did they add that transition? Why did they use a rollover effect? How isn’t so important. Show that they did and you’re fine.
- Staff can submit work for moderation at any time (of the day and of the year). That means that we don’t have to work to any external deadlines. We can submit work and, if it fails, we can submit again at any time (albeit at an extra cost). So long as work is submitted by the start of June then certification for the August is guaranteed. Nice and flexible is a bonus, definitely.
- The main difference between Level 2 and Level 3 is in the detail of the planning and evaluation (note, it’s not a ‘review’ any more). Also more complex features such as non-destructive editing techniques, 3D work instead of 2D, more focus on detailed editing techniques rather than capturing footage/sound.
There were, of course, some negative points as well.
- Software requirements. While Kevin and Alison went to great lengths to point out that they cannot recommend any particular applications it is very hard to complete Unit 3 without using Flash and they seemed to be pushing Mission Maker throughout large parts of the day. They clearly have a very close relationship with the people at Mission Maker and I did get a bit sick of hearing the name crop up for unit after unit – especially when it was revealed that the company behind the software is looking to use students’ work to develop their own games.
- The trivial nature of some of the tasks. The work produced by our Y10 students for Level 2 would easily meet the Level 3 criteria. Some of the tasks are technically very simple to complete. The Unit 3 project on Multimedia Concepts could be completed (and essentially is completed) by Year 7 pupils in their first term. An interactive, non-linear presentation. PowerPoint with Action Buttons. Admittedly the same is true of GCSE ICT but it’s still a shame I think. We’ll certainly be pushing our students a lot harder.
- The uneven balancing. Some units are quite technical and challenging, others are extremely simple and one doesn’t actually require the use of any equipment other than a pencil and paper (although a member of staff would need a scanner).
- Prescriptive project briefs. Some are very open-ended. Some are not. We were told not to use writing frames for the pupils, but the project briefs often read that way. Literally to the point of giving the pupils a list of step-by-step instructions (import this sprite, change it’s name to ‘sprite2’, change the blue to yellow). It’s a difficult to balance, and the nature of the units makes it uneven. The unit on game DESIGN has to be very open-ended. The unit on game ENGINES is the one that’s so precise. That’s going to be true based on the project brief, but the task list that follows bugged me in the lack of creativity.
Overall it was a positive course and I DO like the course. A lot. And I think that Kevin and Alison have done a good job, both in terms of the training day and the qualification itself. I’ll go into more detail on the individual units at a later time, but there’s plenty there to be thinking of.
EDIT: I missed this as I was flicking through my notes – each candidate has 200MB of space on the eportfolio system. That’s per candidate, not per unit, but it seems a healthy amount for 5 units so long as appropriate file formats and compression are considered (i.e. no 10MB Word documents with huge embedded images that remain uncompressed!).
That also reminds me, the finished product must be a separate file – so not an image embedded in a Word document. It must be included as a jpg/png/TIFF/whatever.